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  1. Default Newbies Going West

    Taking our first cross country at the end of May and would love some suggestions to make sure we don't miss any must hits. We are more interested in the western states. Would appreciate any advise on National parks, waterfalls, scenic drives, auto roads, swimming holes, breweries, hot springs, ect.

    quick itinerary but not set on anything (dont mind driving a lot)
    Day 1: arriving in chicago
    Day 2: drive toward south dakota
    Day 3: Finish drive to badlands national park check out wind caves and mt rushmore
    Day 4: Make the drive toward yellowstone (devil's tower maybe?)
    Day 5: yellowstone
    Day 6: Grand Teton
    (maybe add another day at one of these parksbut would love suggestions on what are must sees in this area if we only have a day in each)
    Day 7: drive toward shoshone falls idaho
    Day 8:drive to Reno/ Tahoe
    Day 9: Lake Tahoe
    (Maybe another day here)
    Day 10: drive through Redwood NP
    Day 11: Pacific coast down to San Francisco
    Day 12: San Fran
    Day 13: drive to Yosemite
    Day 14: Yosemite
    Day 15: drive through sequioa np then head towards LA
    Day 16: LA
    Day 17: San Diego
    Day 18: Drive through Arizona towards grand canyon
    Day 19: Grand Canyon
    Day 20: Las Vegas
    Day 21: drive through Parks in Utah
    Day 22-25: Colorado
    Realize its a lot of area covered with a lot of driving but we love driving

    Thanks for any help!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Pretty packed already

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    I also love to drive, but also enjoy the rewards that the driving brings. In your case I think the rewards will be limited. You are heading to some truly remarkable places and in a lot of those places you just won't have the time to enjoy them. On paper your trip is doable, but in reality you will be seeing most things through the windshield, just driving through the parks can take large amounts of time, to get out and enjoy them is another thing.

    I would estimate your trip to be close to 7000 miles by the time you add on the detours around City and parks, and if your end point is Chicago[?]. I reckon it will have you driving on average around 6 hours a day, every day by the time you take into consideration National park and City roads with there speed limits and congestion.

    I would recommend heading to Vegas and then Grand canyon rather than doubling back on yourselves and unless it's a big 'must' for you, at least consider dropping LA and San Diego. With the little amount of time you have there, most of it will be spent in traffic queues anyway. Plus the fact driving between GC and Vegas while visiting both and then "drive through parks' in Utah all in 3 days is a big ask.

    Check out the RTA map centre in the tool bar above, you can check out attractions with a simple click of the 'Radius search' button along your route.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default beyond the car window?

    I love to drive too, and I've done some trips where I've done almost all my sightseeing out of a car window, rarely staying in any place for more than a day. However, even by that standard, I don't think I would attempt the pace you are looking at. Once you factor in drive times, you're going to have very little time at many of the places you're talking about.

    For example, on day three you plan to finish driving toward the Badlands, and check out Rushmore and a cave. Each of those 3 things requires a couple of hours to do (at least - and the caves require reservation for a tour), plus the Badlands is a about a 100 miles from the black hills. When all is said and done, you'd need about 20 hours of daylight to pack all of that in.

    another example, Day 21 is actually kind of comical, "Drive through the parks in utah." There's a good half dozen parks that could be explored in southern Utah, but without doing any stopping at all, its already a full day on the road from Vegas to Colorado. Maybe you detour down to Arches and spend an hour driving through, but that would be pushing it. And as Dave mentioned, it would make more sense to do Vegas, GC, then Utah anyway.

    If all you want to do is drive, this trip can be done. But there are just lots of cases where you are planning both full day drives, and planning to explore an area on top of that. I think you'll find once you are on the road, it ends up being a lot more exhausting and less rewarding than you'd hoped. Even trimming off a 3-4 of your current planned stops would be a huge help in giving you a little wiggle room that will allow this trip to breathe a bit.

    As an aside, considering this trip is at the end of may, I'd look closely at exactly when you'll be traveling, and compare that to the typical opening times for much of Yellowstone. That park typically doesn't fully open up (many roads and services close for winter) for the summer until the Memorial Day weekend, and if you are planning to go earlier, it may make sense to reverse the order of your trip.

  4. Default thanks

    Thanks for help. We are not set on the days , I guess I should have made them bullet points. What im kind of looking for is advise on which out of these places are favorites from you guys that are more experienced with the west and if we are missing any "must see" places or even if we should cut any of them places out. I definitly will go in reverse order so we catch yellowstone at a later date and we'll map it out to make sure we cut out any unnecessary driving (grand canyon- vegas order).

    * Colorado- I was at the olympic training center a few years back in colorado springs and did the pikes peak auto road and loved it. Anything else like this?

    *Utah- Had plans of just driving through because I don't know too much about any of the parks here but which is the best for scenery?

    * Grand Canyon- I've heard that certain rims are better than others, any suggestions if we had to choose?

    * California- which parts of the coast are the best to drive for the winding road (mountains and ocean)?best stops along the way?

    * Best route to get to yelowstone/Grand teton?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default A start.

    * Colorado- I was at the olympic training center a few years back in colorado springs and did the pikes peak auto road and loved it. Anything else like this?
    The Trail ridge Rd in RMNP is the highest continuous paved road in the US. You might also want to check out Fall river Rd from Estes park to Trail ridge Rd. South of Idaho Springs is the Mt Evans road to the top of Mount Evans,[unsurprisingly] THE highest paved road in the US.

    *Utah- Had plans of just driving through because I don't know too much about any of the parks here but which is the best for scenery?
    This is why you need to do some of your own research and see what works for you. We are here to help you get the best from your trip and to help fill in the blanks, not to decide for you what is 'best'. Best isn't a word we use a lot around here [if at all] because we believe the 'best' and the road trip to be a personal thing for each individual. For Utah you have Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce canyon and Zion NP's to mention a few main attractions. Each very individual and incredibly wonderful in there own right. Utah scenic Byway 12 through Escalante is pretty amazing, Dixie National Forest, Goosenecks State park, Glen canyon, Natural Bridges and a drive down the Moki dugway are a 'few other memorable things to add. Well you get the picture, if we listed this much for each part of your journey there would be pages and pages, so start getting some dots on the map !

    * Grand Canyon- I've heard that certain rims are better than others, any suggestions if we had to choose?
    Again no 'best'. I would certainly recommend the National park area, which is the North or South rim. The North is at higher elevation, colder with less services and less people, which adds to it's charm. The South, with more viewpoints and more services equals more people, both are viable options.

    * California- which parts of the coast are the best to drive for the winding road (mountains and ocean)?best stops along the way?
    OK I give in ! ;-) The 'best' is the section around Big Sur between Monterey and Cambria for the windy roads and scenery.

    * Best route to get to yellowstone/Grand teton?
    With your love of mountain roads [one I share] you will love the Beartooth highway into Yellowstone, the 212 from Red Lodge. From Yellowstone Lake head South to the Tetons.

    You would have to check on the status of the Beartooth highway, but normally opens by mid May.

    Enjoy the planning, and as and when new questions arise just ask, but for now you have a little work to do. I say "work," but the planning stage is an enjoyable part of the trip as a whole.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 12-20-2010 at 05:03 PM. Reason: Added comment.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Considereing your enjoyment of mountain roads, I'd really try to work in a trip over Tioga Pass. The logical place to do this would be to go from Tahoe to Yosemite.

    If you need to cut a few things, I'd look at trimming off Redwoods NP, as it really is quite a ways away from the rest of the route. I'm also a fan of Sequoia, but you can see some giant Sequoias inside of Yosemite, so that might be a way to give yourself more time at other stops.

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